Some really big grunter have been taken over the last couple of weeks and should be around for a while. With mixed reports on numbers and locations, the deeper drains are the best by all reports on a half out tide.
People with much more experience than me on the grunter tell me the good old gar fillets are a great bait for the night time stuff, and a strip of gar a few inches long rigged on around a 10kg leader and a single 4/0-5/0 Gamakatsu Suicide hook is a fun technique. Other options include squid baits, in both the bottle squid and the California squid. Rigging the bigger squid on snelled 6/0s is the best method for securing these bigger fish. Big bait prawns peeled and as lightly weighted as possible, but still staying on the bottom are also worth a go and plenty of other fish get involved with the prawn baits as well.
Mackerel of all descriptions are being taken, the spotties in the XOS size range are thick and snipping plenty of plastics off when anglers are chasing reef and shoal species such as golden snapper (fingermark). Spaniards are smashing trolled lures and baits, and the 190 Laser Pro is a stand out in the pilchard colour. Sharks are a massive problem when you hit a school and heavy gear needs to be swung into action to get the macks in before they get eaten.
Reef fish are stacked up thick on any structure available, and some stonker large mouth nannygai are coming over the gunnels for the guys jigging softies. All manner of hard-hitting big mouthed cod are getting on the mix, and don't be surprised if your trout or sweetie all of a sudden turns into an unstoppable freight train destined for the bottom. It's not always sharks that eat your catch, and you can be sure that the encouragement from your mates will be hilarious.
The high numbers of mac tuna around will not only stretch your arms, but also supply about the best bottom baits around, so there's a bit of a bonus for those who want to get their slugs out. Tiny 15-30g slices like a Halco Twisty or Outcast will get eaten really quickly and it may be worth removing the trebles and putting a solid single swinger on the back to get a better hold. Salting the fillets with rock salt before freezing them will toughen them right up for the next bottom session too.
The flats and muddy holes have been the seen of many a salmon frenzy, and a half pillie, prawn baits or slowly worked paddle-tail or soft vibe should get the reel screaming. Soft rods are pretty important to use with any leaping fish, but the salmon are particularly prone to either throwing a lure or rubbing through a leader. Speaking personally, they aren't that good of a table fish and viewed as a spectacular sporting species on our boat. It's more the worms in the flesh that put me off, and if you do decide to try one, I'd be cooking it thoroughly.
The jacks are just going off, and small hardbodied divers, poppers, paddle-tailed plastics, prawn imitations and all other manner of lures are producing jacks in good numbers. Trying to avoid the barra at the moment is the hardest thing. The jacks are averaging 40cm, so while they aren't big fish they will keep you in your toes on a lighter bait caster or spin outfit. If I had to pick one hardbody and one plastic to use at the moment for jacks, it would be a large Atomic Prong on a weedless hook, or a Halco Hamma in the 85mm size.
Bottom of the tide generally exposes more horizontal timber lying on the bottom, and this is Hamma time, as the lure is slowly twitched and paused as it is worked over the top of the snag. Rigged weedless, the Prongs can be slid over the structure and allowed to flutter down the side of the snag to the deeper pockets, out of reach of the divers. When it's windy or the tides are a bit much, and the water becomes muddy, the addition of the Bassman Beetle spin arm is definitely worth having on hand to give a whirl. Failing that, a live herring or small mullet sat close to the snags is going to get eaten for the bait fishers.
Finding the snags is obviously the most important bit, and deeper submerged snags are for me, almost a guarantee to have good fish holding. I suppose it's like Holden and Ford when it comes to Sunnies brands, but I have a definite preference for the Tonics in the copper or brown lens for the finding snags. The electric motor is an incredibly important tool for this type of lure fishing, and as the tide nears the bottom, I'll work my way into the drains until the electric starts to bottom out. Paying attention to any big logs, rock bars or structure that may block your path when retreating with the tide is advised. Getting stuck in a sandfly infested creek isn't a nice experience, so it's worth watching out for.
It’s cyclone season, and that makes the weather harder to predict at the moment, but needless to say it will be a daily chore to keep up with if you are trying to plan a few days on the water. Apart from proper cyclones, relatively small scuds that just come out of nowhere are a real risk, and if you plan on going offshore but you find yourself cocking your head on the side as you read the weather report and saying things like, “Ahh, we'll risk it”, please don’t. You can also check the weekly report on the Akwa Marine Facebook page, Akwa Marine Fishing Boating Yachting, as we post things as soon as we hear them, so that will be a more up to date source of info for 'out of towners' as we get closer to the Holidays.
Good luck and safe travels over the festive season.Reads: 310